Oklahoma Education Standards … A Recipe for Chaos

The testing really isn’t the worst of it. I know I compared standardized testing in the last section to a system that literally murders children who fail, but in all honesty, it isn’t the worst part of being an Oklahoma teacher. There is a reason that the tests are so impossible to navigate beyond just the weight applied to them. It isn’t even the test themselves, but that the state standards they are based upon are always changing.

In Oklahoma, the tests are aligned to what is called the OAS or Oklahoma Academic Standards. Rather, they are the revised OAS. I say “revised” because this post will probably be out of date in a few months because the powers that be in Oklahoma have changed the standards numerous times in the last 5 years. Two years ago it was unironically called the PASS skills, and before that, we were on Common Core. You see, the standards on which teachers are expected to teach are revised nearly every single year.

In practice, this means that a teacher who has her written lesson plan, one which she built and designed over a period of years and which she has evolved to be a solid tool for guiding her students’ educational progression throughout the year, now must be completely rewritten because it doesn’t align to the new methods prescribed by Oklahoma legislatures. The standards are killer because it effectively limits what you can teach, as almost nothing in the way of books, assignments, and classroom materials aligns with them. This forces teachers to throw out everything they used the year before and start from scratch. Remember what I said about the difficulty printing companies had to keep up with our changing standards? And something so sad it’s funny… if you actually work in a school that can afford books you have to throw them out too. If it doesn’t align with Oklahoma Education Standards, it’s gone because they absolutely won’t align to whatever new standards were cooked up in Oklahoma City by non-educators at the behest of numerous and conflicting political interest groups.

I liken it to a something my mother, a career nurse of over 30 years, says of others in the profession. “You see some nurses who have been nursing for 30 years, and you see some that have been 1st-year nurses 30 times.” She was speaking to the individual ability of some nurses to never surpass their basic capabilities and act upon raw education they’ve been given. They aren’t able to apply experience, pioneer new methods, to act on their own initiative, to solve problems, or become a resource to new members because their mentalities are trapped at that point of a first year. Nearly every industry mirrors this process, but ask yourself what your industry would be like if nearly every single year, the entire best practices manual for how things that work are done is thrown out. That’s Oklahoma, and what it leaves us with an entire culture with nothing but first-year teachers. This includes excellent master level educators who personify that picture of a 30-year teacher, but who have had to abandon tried and true methods of instruction because they do not align to whatever new state standard they’ve been forced to uphold.

I want you to imagine yourself as a teacher. You go to work every day, but then you work hours every night to prepare for next week too. This isn’t to mention the grading and other thankless necessities of the job, but we will just focus on the lesson plans. It would be nice if you could use that time you invested, hours out of every week, into next year, right? If that were the case, you would have a difficult time of it that first year, but it would be better the next year. Where last year you stayed afloat, this year you could be improving the lessons that flopped, and the next year, even more. Even better, a first-year teacher could be given a simple folder from their master level teacher on a thumb drive that has the entire year’s worth of lesson plans, complete with additional resources, links, activities, and everything else that they have been refining for decades. She smiles and says, “You can use this, and trust me, it will save your life.” In either case, even if you live in a district that can’t buy books on their own, that process will be refined to finally give teachers the time to improve their course of studies. In time, you could you spend extra time and energy (yes, teachers used to have that) to take on a mastery, such as investing in your own understanding topics such as how poverty affects education or neurological development in the brains of children. The free time of our teachers is where they become masters of the craft. It’s where new methods and mastery is made. It’s why the wisdom and experience of a 30-year teacher are more valuable than the energy and idealism of a 1st-year. But is that how things work in Oklahoma?


Instead, you start over every time there is a major set of reforms. In my wife’s five years as an elementary school teacher, they have reformed the standards three times. Remember, we’re asking a 22-year-old new teacher currently building a textbook from scratch from activities she found on Pinterest or paid for herself online, to throw it all away next year! All the nights she’s put into making her own curriculum… gone. If you don’t work in education, you don’t have that at your job. You get to refine your processes year to year and develop best practices that make sailing the ship a breeze. At some companies that refined process is itself a strategic advantage so valuable it’s even patented. Not for Oklahoma teachers. Here, everyone is a first-year teacher, even if they have been teaching for decades.

This creates a chaotic work environment. Hell, it creates a terrible life. Look, I know a lot of teachers who would be happy to work for the salary we get. Expenses in Oklahoma are low. It’s possible to have a higher quality of life here with less pay. But it isn’t worth it to have low pay and a chaotic life. Most new teachers wash out, which is criminal as most are fine teachers, but can’t handle the overwhelming nature of bureaucratic mess they have to deal with and an endless cycling workload. So they either become refugees in Texas or Arkansas or do like a friend of mine… who sells coffee.

But why does this keep happening?

Because Oklahoma voters are pissed that kids are failing. They are the parents. They have a right to be. But the voters don’t understand the problem from the teacher’s perspective. They only see the examples of the really terrible teachers who have been milking the system for decades while failing to education juxtaposed with the low scores and they think nothing is being done. To appease the voters, the most politically expedient thing to do is issue some set of new standards. Apparently, people assume the old standards aren’t working, when really the teachers haven’t had the time needed to adapt to them. Lawmakers usually understand this, but telling the teachers to do better by “raising the bar” justifies their paycheck and their power they’ve been given. Nevermind that they’ve raised nothing, but simply placed a new bar painted different and told the teachers that to successfully jump it, they must do so with bound feet and while running backward.

It isn’t that we don’t have a need for some standards, but that lawmakers don’t respect the pain standard reforms cause, and that too much of it does far more harm than leaving teachers alone to solve problems themselves. You can’t change the way they fundamentally do their job every year and expect things to get better. Given the problems teachers have, they would need at least five years to create and share new modes of doing their job, maybe a minimum of three, but pulling the rug out from under out teachers year after year is a recipe for chaos in the lives of our teachers that explains far more of their failure than that no one in Oklahoma City held them to any standards at all.

This is part of a series on Education in Oklahoma:

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Teaching to the Test

Every educator know the temptation to “teach to the test”. It refers to the annual standardized tests which the state mandates almost all children must take to know which of their teachers are to be thrown in the chokie. By this, I mean that depending on the tests, teachers could lose their jobs, and if there is a particularly egregious screw up with the way the testing was administered, lose their license. Teachers are terrified during Testing Season not just for themselves, but for their kids and their schools. For students, failure can mean being held back or labeled “the stupid one”.

One has to question the rationality in all of this. One area principal made a very good point that it is insane that we judge a year’s worth of collective work of both a child and his teacher based on the performance on a single day, a day when they may be in near panic, when their dog could have been hit by a bus, their grandmother may have died, they could be sick, or maybe they just don’t do well on tests. This is not to mention that Testing Season itself amounts to a huge block of educational time including reviews and regular benchmark testing… time where they aren’t being taught actual classroom material, but practicing to look good for the state.

There’s a reason for this, of course, as the schools face real consequences for failure. Every year there is a school A-F report card and testing is a huge part of it. If too many kids fail, and if it becomes a pattern, the school can face punitive budget cuts or be shut down. That being the case, it needs to be said that it’s impossible to find two identical schools with the same balance of needs, same population, same wealth distribution, same ethnic diversity dynamic, or the same anything. But it’s okay to stack the test scores of one school against the others as if that determines the value of their teachers? This matters in vastly recessed parts of the state where the local tax base does little to supplement state funds. Then throw in the places with high percentages of kids needing ESL or ELL services, which often, unfortunately, stack on poorer communities. Given all this disparity, you think you are going to get scores on par with the rest of the state. But if a school is graded as an F on the school report card it should be shut down? That would be like killing off all the kids who don’t pass, an idea so terrifying, Hollywood literally made a movie about it called The Thinning.

Logan Paul Shares Trailer for YouTube Red Thriller 'The ...

That’s what it feels like for many poor schools. You have it hard? Tough. Pass or get closed and any poor teacher associated with you is marked as untouchable for the rest of her career.

For this reason, the schools have adapted by trying to make the single most stressful week of a kid’s year, as well as their own, into a circus with all sorts of asinine behavior from dressing up, decorating the halls, and matching T-shirts reading some silly affirmation like “Rock the Test”. Why engage in this utter nonsense and a complete waste of time? Because literally so much is riding on it, and while everyone is trying to pretend like they are having fun and to be relaxed, everyone is scared out of their minds.

It should surprise no one teachers do that ugly thing no one is allowed to admit to.

Teachers teach to the test.

It’s a fact. Let’s just own it, accept it, and deal with this horrible truth. Teachers teach to the test and screw anyone for judging them.

What does this mean?

It means that teachers don’t have the liberty to teach so that your kids understand the material. They teach so that they don’t get fired for having lost test scores.

Fine, okay. We have to somehow ensure that some standards are met. Obviously, we can’t have teachers telling kids that magical crystals govern the universe in accordance with the amount of positive energy you channel into them, right? But at what point did we cross a line from productive assessment to damaging our students? I’m not sure, but I will venture a guess that schools being so insecure in their teachers that they interrupt actual classroom time with endless benchmarks is probably counterproductive to education. Secondly, whoever allowed a system to evolve where school counselor dresses like a flipping taco so that the kids can relax to take a stupid test is someone who needs to be duct taped to a wall, and have the collected volume of the state tests thrown at them like a Bronze-Aged stoning. Test day Taco Teacher is where we know we crossed the line.

So how do teachers handle this? One of a few ways:

First, they can place insane amounts of stress on children to perform, not that there is anything in it for the kids because rewarding positive outcomes is strictly forbidden. I’m not being facetious, you’re literally not allowed to reward kids for doing well on the tests because rich schools can incentivize more. It’s fairer, but all that is left for kids is the negative consequences of failure. Not a good motivator.  Then make all this happen on a day when you get kids ripped from their classrooms into totally foreign environments where the teachers walk around like prison guards trying to telepathically relay the answers to their children. Couple this with telling them to relax and that everything will be okay, while teachers subconsciously communicate to them that if they fail the teacher’s life will be over, their lives will be over, the school’s life will be over, and the fall of the American Republic will soon be neigh, and no matter what you do, kids will be stressed to the point of breaking.

Hence Taco Teacher.

Some kids aren’t bothered, but then there are the others. The others are the kids who will freak out, have a panic attack, or who simply don’t care and are willing to fail to see the world burn. Yeah, there are monsters, but the problem is that there enough of these second two groups to completely break the average. Awesome.

Then there is the second option: Cheat. Look, you make the stakes high enough and the situation desperate enough, people are going to cheat.  You tell someone that their job and the food in their kid’s bellies comes down to the performance of 60 kids they have only had access to for about 1 hour a day for about 100 days before the testing season starts… Teachers are human and some will take the low road.

Or you have what most educators actually do. They learn about the test. Over the years, they stop teaching what is best to create well-educated students ready to tackle life’s challenges, and they teach to a test so that they can look like superstars and know they will be invited back next year.

I’ll leave it at this. If teachers, students, and schools got to write an A-F test for the Oklahoma State Board of Education, the “F” wouldn’t just stand for “failed.”

Frustrated Teacher

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The Myth of Classroom Tablets

But what about one-to-one technology? (That’s teacher parlance for tablets.)

As you can imagine, giving every student a tablet (as in one-to-one) is a massive initial investment. At least then you have them. Well, that’s still not “problem solved.” My last section described just how important textbooks are for educators.  At this point, there is no complete replacement for what textbooks offered: one complete program that covers an entire year’s worth of material (even if the standards change… again), along with activities for practice, and assessment materials that follow a clear progression through the academic year. Sorry, there’s just no app for that.

What we have instead are poorly integrated multimedia programs and video games disguised as learning aides disguised as video games (not a typo.) The games are billed as helping with conceptual skills and fundamentals, but any of those that actually do… no one actually plays. The multimedia is usually a long series of videos and reading material that the kids can usually click through in 10 minutes what should take them a few hours to complete. They have clever visuals and a few quizzes but are ultimately inferior because they aren’t made with the same depth and detail as the books, as many are produced at breakneck paces by software startups employing five engineers and zero educators. Add in the fact that one of the last things Oklahoma educators get for programs like this is training in implementation, particularly with advanced programs. Sure, the administrators make sure you know how to check kids in, but as far as actually working with the programs that help you teach… eh.

Where we have successes usually comes from the fact that technology-based learning offers tools older methods don’t. For example, if you’re able to have all your work done on tablets, the grading can be done automatically. For teachers who spend in excess of four hours a week grading worksheets this is a godsend. Also getting instant knowledge of who is understanding the material and who isn’t is an invaluable tool to an educator. Likewise, there also exists excellent communication tools making it easier for parents and teachers to work together. Those are great (Classroom Dojo FTW!), but in all honesty, a teacher can also use Classroom Dojo with just her phone, so the one-to-one isn’t necessarily part of that equation.

So, discounting the communication technology, the grading does very little if it isn’t part of a holistically integrated lesson plan. For most teachers, this is where one-to-one fails.

What this translates to is Mr. Jones or Miss Smith now with access to the power technology, tech that cost the Oklahoma taxpayer one of the few pretty pennies they still had. They have no training in how to use it but had two days during in-service to figure it and design their entire year’s worth of education around along with the other teachers equally as lost as they are. So when you think about the costs of these massive outlays to it shouldn’t surprise you when the lesson ends up being, “Go to this YouTube video then take the quiz in Kahoots I spent an hour making last night.”

Given that most schools don’t have the pull that major school districts do, (such as the Los Angeles Independent School District) they don’t have the resources to court companies willing to tailor education suites just for them. Of course, even with LA, that crashed and burned. This is why for all but a few, one-to-one technology does not replace textbooks unless the teachers build a curriculum from scratch… again… but this time digitally. This means teachers have the burden of not only teaching, but also creating all curriculum, which they may or may not have the resources to act upon, which is already impossible, but whatever. Add into that the need to develop technology skills that would make them way, way more employable in other industries…

Well, at least this time they won’t need paper.

Next up… those godforsaken tests!

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It’s Impossible to Teach Without Books

My wife has been a teacher in Oklahoma for five years and has never had the benefit of working with a new textbook. If she had been working in education longer, then that number would be higher. This is a major problem for Oklahoma teachers that sadly, needs to be spelled out. Textbooks are necessary as they give teachers a guided framework to teach students, useful resource material, a means of assessment, and a shared source all in one holistic package.

At least, they used to. Now teachers don’t get even that much. I’ll get to the reasons why, but first you need to realize what life is like for a teacher without classroom books for her kids.

If you’re lucky, you at least get consumables. Consumables are classroom materials that usually include a book, as well as a workbook with tearaway assessment materials (worksheets) that the kids use as their practice and to take grades. While these are better than nothing, they don’t meet the rigor and quality of real textbooks where the assessments are made from ruled paper. The big problem with them, however, isn’t that they don’t provide as much as the texts. It’s that they are very expensive solutions to only this year’s problem. Because they are consumed every year, there is little to nothing to use again next year. While we can complain that we have textbooks in classrooms for ten to 15 years… they’ve done the job for 15 years. Imagine ripping out all the portions of the text that provided activities for the kids to practice what they learned or for the teacher to know if they are getting it. That’s what a consumable solution looks like year two. Of course, this is usually how it works — with a giant pile of garbage created every year and a new set of consumables being purchased each and every year. Did I also mention that the sets are rarely the same requiring the teacher to completely redo her program to accommodate this new solution?

While this isn’t ideal, it makes the job of teaching at least possible. Without at least this solution, your life looks very similar to my wife’s for a few years, which was an abject nightmare.

Imagine that you’ve worked all day, from 7:30 AM to around 5PM herding 80 lbs malcontented chickens. Then you finally get home. Ah, the glories of rest and the comforts of family. But no, now work starts.

If you don’t have a system of integrated resources that align to your lesson plan then you have the happy duty of making one… from scratch… every week. You learn to respect the writers of textbooks when you get to do it yourself. That means all the lessons, the assessments, the testing, the lecture material, and it has to be colorful and entertaining or else it won’t compare to Call of Zombies VI. I’m a professional writer now, so trust me when I say books don’t write themselves. To do that on top of being a full-time teacher… with a family? You must be joking. Obviously, no teacher has the ability to literally write a textbook for her class every year. So for four years, my wife spent hours, upon hours, upon hours searching the internet either on Pinterest or TeachersPayTeachers (like Etsy but teachers sharing assignments they created) for assignments and modules to allow her to teach her required subjects. Note that this means she has to spend her own money for assignments that aren’t integrated into the state-mandated curriculum in any way. But this is what happens when the state doesn’t provide your school with the resources to buy materials for you.

Maybe you’re thinking that this is a good thing, that if they create the curriculum then they are better able to do their jobs — teach kids. You’d be incorrect, as this robs them of how they teach. Think about when I went to Iraq with the Marines. That job is hard enough, right? We can agree there. Now imagine if I had to also buy my own gun and equipment. Worse, how well do you think our warfighters would be if they also had to build their own equipment? The job is designed to push people to their limits already in challenging and dynamic environments. Adding, “gunsmith” to the billet shouldn’t be necessary too. The same is true for teachers, yet we are basically sending them to war without weapons, armor, or a strategy, and telling to make do with what they personally buy from the internet.

But wait, there’s more! No matter what option she takes, she is still going to have no books to work from other than what she prints out herself. Did I mention paper rationing? Yes, on top of having no books, no consumables, and basically making the teachers invent their own curriculum this year, and when all teachers are doing what my wife is doing… that means they have literally nothing to teach their kids with! Frankly, that paper rationing started a minor revolt this year and the superintendent buckled.

But you want to know what is even crazier? It isn’t even a matter of not having the money to buy textbooks. The textbook companies are literally not even printing them. This is due to the chaotic nature of Oklahoma education standards placed on schools by the state. The standards determine what is and isn’t taught by Oklahoma teachers (You thought it was teachers, huh? Yeah right.) What happens when something doesn’t align with the current standards? It’s no good. It has to be thrown out. A brand new classroom set literally has no place in the classroom because of all the things it doesn’t teach decided upon by some committee in Oklahoma city because parents and activists threatened to say mean things on Facebook. Yeah, that’s how the system works. So textbook companies can’t do that. It takes years to create a new edition and they can’t keep up with states as fickle with their standards as ours. That’s why they threw up their hands and said “fooey with the Okies!” and stopped printing books we could use.

I’ll talk about the problems with Oklahoma’s standards later, but next, I want to illuminate you on something you’ve probably been asking yourself ever since this started, “Why not just use updated technology?”

Why not indeed…

 Next Article: The Myth of Classroom Tablets or Start at the Beginning

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It’s Not a Teacher Crisis – It’s a Tax Crisis

Oklahoma isn’t facing a teacher crisis, but a tax crisis. Simply, Oklahoma can’t give what it doesn’t have. You can see this in by looking at our Highway Patrol and Prisons are dangerously underfunded. This is not to mention other government organizations like the Department of Human Services, or often overlooked state jobs like court reporters, who have gone for more than a decade without a pay raise.

Could some reshuffling be done, cannibalize other state programs to support the monolithic budgetary needs of public education? Sure, but which parks do you want to close? What infrastructure do you want to cancel? What welfare do you want to cut? Who do you want to lay-off? We could do that, in some places we should, but this is not just a teacher crisis. Oklahoma just doesn’t have money.

So the other option, raise taxes.

Many of the current demands on Oklahoma legislatures are to raise the oil excise taxes, the tax on a good once it is drawn out of its original source, back to 7% from its current around 3% with other subsidies paid out to oil and energy companies. That’s certainly one option. I’m not discounting it. But like cutting programs, that will come with consequences too. While increasing the excise tax will relieve current pressures a few things need to be understood about the oil industry. First off, most of the oil which comes from a new well is drilled in the first three years. After that, it trickles for the next twenty. Many of the new wells are already beyond their three-year mark, but many other wells remain yet to be dug. We still have to account for international tampering in the oil industry, but eventually, that will end too. If Oklahoma makes reactionary decisions today to solve near problems, they miss the greatest industry boom in world history when foreign states can no longer artificially hold the price per barrel of oil so low.

So while I agree with many that raising the excise tax today could relieve many of  Oklahoma’s numerous hardships, we do so at the cost of many future opportunities. I’m not going pretend it’s an easy decision for lawmakers because they are literally choosing between our children’s education today, or risking those same children’s future employment tomorrow.

That said, taxes don’t just come from energy. The state is already taxed with high property, income, and even a grocery tax, but we also have on the table so-called vice taxes, such as raising sales taxes on alcohol, tobacco, as well as lottery and casino winnings. We also need to talk about a referendum which took place for a 1% sales tax increase that would have translated to a $5,000 pay raise directly to Oklahoma teachers. The voters in Oklahoma have spoken with directly with that one.

They voted “No.”

You can say that this reflects the culture of Oklahoma, which it may, but Oklahoma teachers need to accept it also says something about a state that no longer has faith in the industry. Yes, we aren’t paid well, but few in the state are. But even if Oklahoma teachers are paid better, can educators honestly say that there aren’t still massive roadblocks in the system preventing them from being the best teachers they could be? Here, I’m talking about the endless parade of benchmark testing to ensure that schools pass the test, technology grants with no quality training for its usage and implementation, the high cost of administrative oversight, students missing 10% of their school days for activity absences, and the lavish amounts of money spent on sports facilities when other teachers don’t have classroom book sets. Oklahoma education needs to grapple the reality that major changes are needed within the education system and not just at the state level.

I want to be fair, teaching in Oklahoma has challenges other industries don’t. The hours are murder and the conditions are impossible, especially for new teachers. I’m saying that as someone who has worked in Oklahoma education for three years, and who was deployed twice to Iraq with the US Marines. The resources aren’t there, and the struggle is mostly invisible to parents and the community. But the reason that it is called a teacher crisis and not a statewide budget crisis is because teachers are the largest and most organized publicly paid collective in the state. So it’s much easier for them to make demands upon the state than others. 

But Oklahoma isn’t hearing them anymore. As evidenced by the failure of Oklahoma voters to fund their own education system, they aren’t moved by arguments centered around, “for the kids”. This isn’t because they don’t love their kids. It’s because they don’t have faith in Oklahoma schools. They view that whatever funds raised through new taxes levied or programs cut are simply not going to make it to their children, but instead be absorbed by an inefficient education system unwilling to adapt to current needs. And I know the teachers. I was one. My wife is one. Many of the best people I know are still in the industry. But teachers need to deal with the fact that there exists a trust issue between educators and people of the state. Teachers are mobilizing and will probably be making many demands over the next few months; many they will get. However, if some hard conversations don’t begin at the state and local level which demand hard reforms to Oklahoma education, I fear the gap between Oklahoma and her teachers is only going to widen.

Next Article: The Problem with Shale or Start at the Beginning

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Oklahoma’s Big Oil Problem

Oklahoma education is tied to an overall funding crisis. You can’t talk about Oklahoma finances without talking about the oil industry and specifically, shale oil.

Shale oil production is a process of accessing oil that has previously been locked away within the rock deep underground. Not long ago, the only profitable way to drill for oil involved horizontal wells that dug into large pockets. Eventually, those pockets became difficult to find and the old “bobbing donkey” wells stopped pumping. In the last decade, however, new technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking have opened up new avenues for the black stuff.

How does this affect Oklahoma’s economy? It’s much more than just selling the oil. Images such as the one above are misleading, namely because there is never just one pipe. In reality, there would be dozens of pipes jutting in all directions. This was beautiful for the Oklahoma economy because someone had to build all that. Manufacturers built the pipes, the pumps, and the thousands of other support jobs created to support the drilling. People also had to truck all that, and local communities also began investing in infrastructure. The wells were only a part of it. The process was extremely labor intensive, which meant jobs and enough taxes in 2013 that Oklahoma’s problems included figuring out how to spend the surplus.

This economic boom didn’t happen by accident. Oklahoma used to have a high excise tax on oil. Excise taxes are taxes paid when a resource is exited from the soil. Oklahoma excise taxes were around 7% prior to the oil boom. But Oklahoma legislatures knew enough about the oil industry to know a horizontal well at the time cost around 5 times as much to build than vertical wells, though they had much more potential. They also knew that Oklahoma wasn’t the only place in the nation this technology could be used. So Oklahoma made the choice to lower excise taxes and offer other subsidies to oil companies to choose Oklahoma over other states. It paid off. Because of that choice, Oklahoma experienced an oil boom, and the US is currently experiencing the products of that wealth today.

In fact, the success of shale oil was so monumental that it had worldwide effects and put the United States to be a net oil exporter by 2020. Some people weren’t happy about that, like Saudi Arabia, who have long enjoyed the wealth gained from a profitable relationship with the United States and exporting its vast oil wealth around the world. In an attempt to kill the burgeoning American shale oil industry, Saudi Arabia did what only they can do: they slashed prices. They could afford this because the Saudis have enough oil that they could live off a loss in oil production for some 30 years without feeling the effects of their own luxurious lifestyle. The rest of the world, however, shuttered and stumbled, few places as much as Oklahoma and its still infant shale oil industry.

So shale responded by getting smarter by drilling down to one central location, which served as a hub for all the pipes that would be built, and also greatly improved the life of a well.

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By becoming far more efficient two things happened: the United States is currently experiencing an energy boom, but… the market for all industries supporting the actual drilling up the oil collapsed. The jobs Oklahoma expected to still be there have withered as we’re seeing those jobs disappear due to simple better business practices and the still artificially low cost of Saudi oil. Then consider the natural process of oil drilling. Once the ground is mapped, the pipes are drilled, the infrastructure built, and the pumping started, there isn’t much left to do from a manufacturing perspective. If it isn’t profitable to drill more platforms, then the jobs aren’t going to be replaced elsewhere. Once the work is done, the drilling starts and there is no new job creation anywhere. Fewer jobs being created by the shale industry shook up the Oklahoma economy. As Oklahoma’s strategy hinged on the continued growth of the industry, and to live off taxes from incomes on all the industries that supported the oil, international maneuvering and the necessary response from local business left Oklahoma in a hard place. This is where Oklahoma has been for a few years. As the nation benefits from massive volumes of cheap and readily available energy, Oklahoma is in a recession.

I say this a former Oklahoma teacher. Speaking rationally, I can’t blame my principal or the school board for problems that are happening a mile under our feet and all over the state. I also can’t blame Oklahoma City for decisions that weren’t even made in the Western Hemisphere specifically targetting our way of life. I want to be angry, but there is just no one to blame on this one and realities we have which we need to accept and understand. Blaming won’t solve this one. Well, maybe there is someone to blame – Scientists and Saudis.

Next Article: It’s Impossible to Teach Without Books or Start at the Beginning

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What’s With the Oklahoma Teacher Crisis?

Educators in Oklahoma are preparing to strike. This is following years of worsening work conditions and the recent news that Oklahoma is now the lowest ranked state in the country in teacher pay.

So how did we get to this point?

Teachers are asking for explanations from Oklahoma leaders why the state seems to have failed so deeply with education, and many are looking for partisan answers. Some blame conservative tax policies while many others advocate that the structure of Oklahoma schools is too rigid and fails to adapt. Others acknowledge most issues aren’t partisan at all. Most of the real problems for Oklahoma have little to nothing to do with politics, but the economy.

I’m a former Oklahoma school teacher married to a current Oklahoma school teacher. I’ve seen the debates from several angles, both as an educator, and now as a researcher. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working to unpack all the problems of Oklahoma education, by diving into causes of teacher burnout and the politics of Oklahoma education. Make sure to follow The War Elephant on Facebook to get more daily updates.

Next Article: It’s Not a Teacher Crisis – It’s a Tax Crisis or Start at the Beginning

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